The Pursuit of Murieta

Written by Thomas D. Clagett
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1853, Joaquin Murieta and his outlaw gang are terrorizing the state of California, killing and robbing the white (gringo) population. Three years earlier, Murieta and his wife were returning home to Mexico from the gold fields of California when they were stopped by three white men who beat and whipped Joaquin and raped his wife, Rosita. In revenge, Murieta hunts down and kills the gringos responsible. He then leads a band of Mexican men in killing gringos who try to get away with murder and/or rob poor Mexicans. He gives most of the money he steals to other poor Mexicans living and being abused by gringos in California.

In this well-written western novel of revenge gone wrong, Joaquin Murieta is eventually captured and killed before he can return to his wife in Mexico. There are complex motives behind the people in the hunt, which adds suspense to the story. Do the men in pursuit kill him, to seek their own revenge, or capture him to stand trial?

With his first novel, Clagett has written a fun read with a unique twist to the average Western by providing a tale from the viewpoint of both the protagonist and those who are in pursuit. The characters are well drawn out, the plot of the story is fast-paced, and the book is a quick read. Highly recommended.